Monday, December 30, 2019

Resolving to Write Every Single Day!

Since the beginning of December, I haven’t been on a deadline and have fallen into a very bad habit.  I’m not sitting down and writing every day.

Whenever I offer a workshop or give a talk to a group of readers and aspiring writers, I’m asked for my advice.  I always tell them, no matter what- write something every day.  Even if it’s a single sentence.

Write something every single day.

But how much should you write?

There’s no good answer to that, but let’s break it down in a quasi-scientific manner.  Most novels are between 70,000 and 100,000 words.  If we average that out to 85,000 words and we write 1000 words a day, you could write a novel in 85 days.  That’s under three months.

But that’s not counting revisions, false starts, or tossing your first, second, and third draft into the fireplace.

Michael Crichton, who passed away in 2008, wrote 28 novels, some under his own name and some under a pen name.  Author of books like Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and The Great Train Robbery, Crichton was extremely prolific, writing up to 10,000 words a day.  He said, “Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”

Anne Rice is the author of an eclectic mix of gothic horror, Christian literature, and erotica. Best known for her book Interview with a Vampire, she knocks out about 3,000 words a day.  In her words, “I have to get all the distractions out of the way. I plunge into the work and write an episode; I can’t just clock in at 3,000 words.  I have to have time free to resolve things.  I write in episodic ways.  But when I’m ready to plunge in, I write from late morning through all afternoon, all evening.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, the grand master of mysteries and the author of the iconic Sherlock Holmes stories, wrote 3,000 words a day.  He said, “Anything is better than stagnation.”

Lee Child who pens the Jack Reacher novels writes about 1,800 words a day.  “I write in the afternoon, from about 12 until about 6 or 7,” he said.  “I use an upstairs room as my office.  Once I get going, I keep at it, and it usually takes about six months from the first blank screen until the end.”

Here are a few of my suggestions for reaching a word goal.

1) Work in a location in which you are comfortable.  Much like Lee Child, I have an office in a small room over the garage.  I’m near enough to a window that I can see if it’s raining but it’s not a distraction.  I have access to the internet in case I need to do some research, but I try not to overdo it. When I’m writing, I usually have some low ambient music in the background.

2) Limit internet usage.  It is a killer of time.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, news websites, and kitty videos are addicting and rob you of your productivity.

3) Find the time of day that you are the most productive.  Most writers find that they can get into a writing rhythm during a certain time of day.  Whenever it is, make sure it’s devoid of distractions.  For me it’s about 1 in the afternoon until about 5.

4) Don’t write boring stuff. If you can’t stay excited about your work, readers won’t either.

5) Don’t be afraid.  A bad first draft is better than no draft at all.  Keep in mind, that unlike in real life, you can go back and change a scene, or make dialogue sharper and wittier.

Shifting gears for just a moment, let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions.  Mine are the same as last year, with one important addition!

1) A healthier diet…more salads, less carbs, less sugar…which means less wine. Well, we all know how that resolution is going to end up.

2) Exercise more often. Carve out time for a long walk or the stationary bike.

3) Don’t be afraid of my first draft. I have to remember that a bad first draft is better than no draft at all.  Wait a minute, didn’t I already say that?

4) Read more. I’m a voracious news junkie, but I find when I’m writing, I can’t seem to find time to read books.  That should be every bit as important as time for writing.

5) Cut back…way back…on the internet. That is a time KILLER.

6) Learn to relax, take a deep breath, look around and appreciate life.

The addition?  Write. Every. Single.  Day.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great advice, Thomas. Happy new year, and happy writing.